Nuclear Politics

Belgium / Nuclear Phaseout Will Increase Emissions And Energy Imports, Says Independent Report

By Kamen Kraev
19 July 2021

Agency warns of increased gas generation and systematic rise in energy related CO2
Nuclear Phaseout Will Increase Emissions And Energy Imports, Says Independent Report
The three-unit Tihange nuclear power station in Belgium, which is scheduled for closure. Courtesy Engie Electrabel.
Belgium’s planned nuclear phaseout by 2025 is expected to increase the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy imports, a report by the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB) found.

The report said nuclear power is expected to supply 35% of Belgium’s electricity in 2023, but warned that the share would plunge to zero at the start of 2026, resulting in increased gas generation and a ‘systematic increase’ in emissions.

As a result, natural gas power generation will compensate for the loss of nuclear power with its share estimated to increase from 19% in 2021 to 28% in 2023 and to 56% by the end of 2025. Renewables are expected to supply 30% of electricity in 2026, up from 26% in 2021.

The FPB, an independent public agency that produces analysis on economic, social and environmental policy issues, also said it expected to see increased imports of electricity and natural gas following the nuclear phaseout. Belgium does not import electricity, but according to the report, imports will account for about 9% of electric supply in 2026.

The report said greenhouse gas emissions are expected to “systematically increase” in 2023 and 2026 following the nuclear fleet shutdowns and due to higher gas-fired power generation.

Estimates showed that energy related emissions in 2020 were 78.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, while projections for 2026 were 94.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Overall, the energy-related emissions in 2026 would still be about 9% lower than in 1990.

Belgium has seven commercial nuclear power units – three at Tihange near Liège and four at Doel near Antwerp. They provide about half of the country’s electricity.

The country’s governing coalition said in October 2020 that it would stand by its predecessor administrations’ plans to shut down the nuclear fleet in 2025 on condition that security of supply will not be affected.

The plans foresee the closure of Doel-3 and Tihange-2 in 2022 and 2023, while Doel-1, -2, -4, and Tihange-3, - 4 will be shut down by 2025.

The plans were enshrined in a law of 2003, then confirmed in 2015 and again in 2018.

In 2018, Belgium agreed to subsidise new electricity capacity – including gas-fired power – to offset the nuclear phaseout.

Last year it was reported that Engie Electrabel plans to build four new gas-steam plants, with a total capacity of 2,950 MW by 2025 to cover energy needs in Belgium.

The government has also left the door open to the potential prolonged operation of the country’s newest nuclear units – Doel-4 and Tihange-3 – in case of supply problems. A report on the country’s future energy needs is due at the end of 2021.

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